SMX Advanced: Duane Forrester from Bing Talks Social, Schema Markup, and Honey Badger – Whiteboard Friday
Posted by Aaron Wheeler
This week, SMX Advanced has taken over Seattle – and we’ve managed to get a piece of the action! That’s right – we’ve got Duane Forrester, the Senior Project Manager of Bing’s Webmaster Program, to talk with us about some of the new updates to Bing and Bing’s Webmaster Tools. Rand talks to Duane about the new Facebook integration on Bing SERPs, the adoption of Schema.org metadata markup, and the Honey Badger update to Webmaster Tools (just like that most ferocious of animals, the Honey Badger update is really pretty bad-ass).
Rand: Howdy, SEOmoz fans, and welcome to this special edition of SMX Whiteboard Friday. No whiteboards, it’s not Friday, but we do have Duane Forrester of Bing. Duane, thank you so much for joining us.
Duane: Thank you, Rand. Pleasure to be back.
Rand: Really appreciate it.
Rand: So Bing’s doing some really awesome stuff. First off, gain in searches.
Rand: Gain in some market share.
Rand: Putting out some kickass new features.
Rand: So there are three things we want to talk about. The first of them is tell me about this new Bing/Facebook integration. It happened about three weeks ago. Now, I’ll do a search and I’ll see this friend and this friend and this friend shared this on Facebook, and so did 312 other people.
Duane: Yeah. It’s a really keen thing. This is an opportunity. We realize that people make decisions, and they generally want feedback from their friends.
Duane: So you’re looking to buy a cordless drill, and you want to know, well, what’s the best one? As these searches come up, if your friends are connected in this network and there’s feedback on this, then results will come up annotated with people that have liked a particular product, or liked a post, or liked an event they’ve gone to, or a location they may have been at.
Rand: So this is like sort of a social proof thing, right?
Rand: There’s this psychological element. Is there also a ranking element? Like if you see things that people are liking a lot on Facebook, or if my friends have liked something on Facebook, does that mean that it might be higher in my results in Bing?
Duane: Yeah, no.
Duane: So I could tell you that the social annotations, they do not change the ranking. Okay?
Rand: Gotcha. Even based on a personalization algorithm?
Duane: Now, what can happen, however, is we can expand real estate on the page to show something for you. Okay?
Duane: So the stack of ten that would normally show up would be there, and we may show something within the middle of that page that’s a social annotation from one of your friends that was against a result that was buried in the results farther back.
Rand: Ah, so something new might pop in.
Duane: Exactly, exactly. And the intent there, again, is to draw attention to the fact that your social network has an opinion on something. You’re trying to make a decision. Your social network is willing to help you make that decision. We can showcase this information.
Rand: Very cool. Does Bing have any plans to include other potential networks, Twitter, other stuff like this?
Duane: Well, we actually do integrate Twitter data now.
Rand: Oh, okay.
Duane: So if you were to do a search, for example on Hulu, you would actually see a result come up for Hulu that’s very customized for Hulu. We pull in a lot of information, including their current tweet status. So anything Hulu’s tweeting out, we’re going to see. You’re going to that at the bottom of the results. It’s an enhanced result at the top of the page. We’ve seen that data.
Rand: Right, I’ve seen that. That’s very cool.
Duane: Beyond that, there’s not much I can really talk about on the future facing, sorry.
Rand: But maybe you like the social annotation, maybe it might have legs. If it does, it might go other places?
Duane: Maybe the users are setting direction and we follow.
Rand: All right. So if you guys like it, then Duane will make it happen. Awesome.
Duane: Yeah, that’s not quite what I said, but sure. It works. It works.
Rand: I make up my own. It’s correlation, right?
Duane: Yeah, exactly. He’s the cause.
Rand: So the second thing that’s really interesting that Bing came out with, you cooperated with a couple of other companies, Yahoo! and Google, to come out with this new Schema.org
Duane: This is what I’ve been telling myself what it is.
Rand: So with schemas, I can now add some rich metadata to on-page content to help tell the engines more about what it is. It’s sort of like microformats or RDFa, but it’s a different format and it’s supported by all the engines.
Duane: Okay. So, we have a few things to cover here. Okay?
Duane: Here we go. Schema.org is a partnership, much like Sitemaps.org or Robots.txt. It’s a protocol.
Rand: No follow.
Duane: Right, exactly. So all three of the engines agree on it. The major engines have come on board this. In this schema, we support microformats, microdata, and RDFa. We don’t care which you chose to use. That is totally your choice. We support them all. In fact, if you’re already using Facebook’s Open Graph, we still support that as well. So it’s not an either or choice here. We’re not trying to dictate investment for a website. What we are saying, however, is help us understand your content better, deeper.
So Rand mentioned metadata to describe things, and it’s really at this point that we describe what we’re talking about, because the metadata we’re referencing is not meta tags, as a lot of people want to think about immediately.
Rand: Yes, yes.
Duane: What we’re talking about are these little, they are tags, and they’re descriptions. So the metadata is actually a description, for example a video or an image or a produce. So remember when the crawler shows up on your website, we don’t really see the video itself. We don’t really see the image itself.
Rand: You not going to watch the video and try to pull out what that is. Yeah.
Duane: Exactly. The rich snippet allows you to say, "Hey, there’s a video of this beautiful man in blue T-shirt talking with some other guy, and they’re talking about things I don’t understand." Now you can put all of that into your rich snippet tag. So when the crawler comes through and consumes your code, it says, "Wow, look at that, this page is marked up. They’ve done some extra work on here. Now what is this video about? It’s about two wackos talking about something weird somewhere.’
Rand: Blue shirt, Schema.org.
Duane: So we pull that data out and we understand. So now when somebody does a search on an engine and says, "I’m looking for some wacky guy in a blue shirt on video."
Rand: Right, right.
Duane: You know what? We may realize then that the video is the best answer. When we take the video back to serve the answer, along with that comes your web page, your navigation, and everything else. So Schema.org allows you to tell us very specific things. You want to see an example in action?
Duane: Do a search on something like Avatar movie on Bing, and you will see what are called tiles in action from websites like IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes. What this does is allows IMDb to actually put data in via these tags on the rating of the show, with their logo, click actions that are included there, which can go to a different location than the organic results. Okay? So these rich snippets enable all of this to happen. All right?
So what I’ve been telling people, every show I go to, "This is something you need to start considering investing in. You’ve got to start getting this into your dev pipeline and figuring out when you’re going to implement it."
Rand: Early adopters can get outsized returns because they’ll be the first ones to have this data.
Duane: Exactly. It’s always the same case, exactly. And because there’s a variety of formats, you can mark up pretty much anything any way you want and we’ll be able to consume it.
Rand: And, Duane, just to be totally clear, is this an element that could influence rankings, or is this just an element that influences this snippet, the look and feel of the UI in the search results, those kinds of things?
Duane: Right. So right now, this is the signal, but the main portion, the main detail we get from this is understanding the content.
Rand: Ah-ha. So this is another way to deliver content.
Duane: Right, exactly. It’s a way to describe the content. So instead of looking at the Internet as a series of URLs that have content appended under them, we actually are now able to catalog the Internet as a series of pieces of content that are related to each other. These tags will help us understand the relationship. It makes it a lot easier for us long term. It’s really the only way to be able to keep up with the explosive growth of the Internet, and it puts the control of the content management in the hands of the website. You guys control it.
Duane: So, as Rand said, early adopters tend to see a rise in things, and over time, that’s a signal for us.
Rand: Very, very cool.
Rand: This is fascinating. There are now these two new ways, the Schema.org stuff and the social stuff of getting things into being or on the front page that might not have been there before.
Rand: That is awesome.
Duane: Plus, when you look at the social component, there’s also an overlap here of you being an influencer of your network, or your network being an influencer of you. So I recently did a search for brunch in Hawaii. I’ve never been to Hawaii. No idea where to go, wouldn’t know it if I looked it up.
Rand: Brunch is the best meal of the week.
Duane: Exactly. So I know I don’t want to miss it because it’s brunch. So I really didn’t have any frame of reference. Now I can go to the usual review websites, and that’s fantastic, but I’d really rather have my friends tell me, who’ve been there, that they like it. We see that data coming in from Facebook. So the people that came back were people that told me that they went to this brunch and it was outstanding. I’m done.
Duane: I don’t need to look any further, because I really don’t know what I don’t know. This is enough for my network to help me understand it’s a safe choice.
Rand: Makes total sense.
Rand: Awesome. So one last thing that I would love to cover, just today, just this morning or late last night, you rolled out this Honey Badger update.
Duane: Honey Badger cares.
Rand: That’s not what I hear. I think someone’s going to tweet something different to you. This Honey Badger update includes actually a lot of stuff in Bing Webmaster Tools.
Rand: Now is this an algorithmic update as well. This is just a Webmaster Tools update.
Duane: No, this is just strictly Bing Webmaster Tools.
Duane: Essentially, what we’ve done is we’ve rolled out an entire new content suite. So I spent the last two months writing SEO help content for everybody. That’s what I’ve been up to.
Rand: That’s kind of nice of you.
Duane: Yeah, you know.
Rand: We appreciate it.
Duane: That’s kind of what I do. So we have all new help content. We cover everything, SEO, link building . . .
Rand: Does it say more than write good content?
Duane: Yes, as a matter of fact, I have a different message than just that, although that features prominently. Don’t kid yourself. We cover all kinds of topics in there, even topics like how to view our data, how to interpret the data, how to find the data, and how to use the tool set. So there are all kinds of that very helpful information.
Rand: One of the things that was most exciting to me was this new Index Explorer.
Rand: Tell me what is Index Explorer is doing?
Duane: Index Explorer is essentially taking a snapshot of your website in the Bing index and everything we know about it and bringing it into one module. So you will click on it. You will see a tree scenario with your root domain and then the folders and everything else underneath it. If you click on anything in there, it will bring up a popup window that will tell you when we indexed it and what kind of header response code we’re getting, so an HTP code that’s being returned. It will allow you tools to block a URL, block the cache version of it, that kind of thing. It will show you how many external links are pointed at that, and if you click on that, it will then list the domains that are linking to you, the URLs, and the anchor text, that kind of thing.
Rand: Do you have separate counts of links and linking domains?
Duane: No, it’s actually the URL level. That’s what we’re looking at.
Rand: Oh, okay. The URL level.
Duane: So you will see them stacked. It’s obvious the domain is there, that’s it.
Duane: And everything is exportable.
Rand: Oh, fantastic.
Duane: If you end up in a scenario where, like my own websites, you have a signature on a form that you go to and you see 1,400 of those, you want to filter them out, just do a sort in Excel and drop them, and then it’s easy to manage. So we’ve got that, that is fantastic. Our essential investment in that has been on the backend to make sure that the data’s robust and that things are much faster on a return.
Rand: And this is the same stuff that you guys use in the main Bing index. It is serving the same data?
Duane: Yes, it is. The Webmaster Tools actually pulls from Bing’s search core. That’s where we get our information from.
Rand: That’s awesome.
Duane: So you guys are seeing it directly in there. A couple of other really cool features, crawl settings. So you want to tell Bing when to crawl, how hard to crawl, how soft to crawl. Not a problem, drag and drop across the graph, set it based on your time frame against your server and against the load, so you know exactly when your users get your bandwidth and you tell us to stay away. Then when it’s dormant, there’s no one around your website, you’re in bed, you’re dreaming, you tell us come on in and crawl it all. It’s totally in your control now.
If you’ve got Ajax components in the site, you can actually check a box and give us a heads-up. It’s an Ajax website. We can crawl slightly differently, but it gives us the heads-up, so now we know when we see characters and we see certain things how to interpret that.
Rand: So this is like the hash-bang or seem to have to . . . yeah.
Duane: Exactly. We now know how to interpret this stuff now. It’s not just some random thing that’s in there. It’s there for a purpose. So you can do that in the crawl settings. Role management.
Rand: Role management? I didn’t see that one.
Duane: Yeah, role management. Role management’s awesome. So you validate one account and then tell people, "You can come on in. Here’s your permission and here’s your level of it."
Rand: This is my consultant, and I want him to see . . .
Duane: So, specifically, for consultants and agencies, this is fantastic, because you guys will actually be able to go now, validate one account, and then bring your clients into this environment and actually say, "Okay, this is your account in Webmaster Tools. You’re going to have read-only data. You can see everything, but you can’t change the settings." That’s why you have Bing.
Rand: We don’t want you blocking anything.
Duane: Exactly. Or if you’re in your company, maybe you want to have senior management read everything, but you only want a handful of people having read/write authority.
Rand: Sure, makes sense.
Duane: Anyone can go pull reports, but only a few people can twiddle the knobs and pull the switches, right?
Duane: So that’s pretty cool. And as always, inside the tool, there is a direct pipeline submission for URLs. So if you want to make sure you get one of your URLs directly into the Bing index, you can submit it. 10 per day, 50 a month is the limit. But you can stick it in and it bypasses everything and goes direct to the index.
Rand: Can I do that for an URL you’ve already crawled, if I’m like, "Oh, I updated this and Bing hasn’t seen the new one and I really want them to see the new one"?
Duane: Yes, you can do that.
Rand: That’s fantastic.
Duane: Yes, that’s it. And if you do it with something that we already about and it’s kind of a duplicate, then we just kind of, ‘Nah, nice try."
Rand: You’re already on. Duane, these are awesome updates.
Rand: I really, really appreciate it. Thank you for being so transparent, sharing so much with us, and we hope you’ll join us again.
Duane: Absolutely, Rand. And I want to give a big shout out to the Bing Webmaster Tools team.
Rand: Oh, yeah. Great job, guys.
Duane: Because those guys did amazing work, so thanks guys.
Rand: Phenomenal. Take care, everyone.
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